Title: What Burns Away by Melissa Falcon Field
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Good wife, good mother. That’s all Claire Spruce is trying to be, but the never-ending snow in this new town and her workaholic husband are making her crazy. Even the sweet face of her toddler son can’t pull her out of the dark places in her head.
Feeling overwhelmed and alone, she reconnects with her long-lost high school boyfriend, Dean, who offers an intoxicating, reckless escape. But Dean’s reappearance is not a coincidence. He wants something from Claire-and she soon finds that the cost of repaying an old favor may lead to the destruction of her entire life.
What Burns Away is a story of loyalty, family, and the consequences of the past’s inevitable collision with our future.
What Burns Away is an engrossing and somewhat suspenseful debut novel by Melissa Falcon Field. It is a very fascinating story about a stay at home mom whose life takes an unexpected turn after she reconnects with her first love on Facebook.
Claire Spruce is a middle aged wife and mother who finds herself increasingly unhappy following a move from her beloved home on the coast to Wisconsin. After struggling with infertility, she left a fulfilling job to care for her son Jonah full time, but she struggles to find meaning and fulfillment without a career. With her husband Miles working long hours and lacking any type of social support, her growing dissatisfaction is somewhat relieved when she accepts a friend request from Dean D’Alessio, her first boyfriend. This is just the first of many impulsive decisions that Claire makes and these ill-fated choices take her down an increasing dangerous path that could destroy everything she holds dear.
None of the characters in What Burns Away are particularly sympathetic. Miles is so completely focused on his career that he neglects both Claire and Jonah. He completely misses how miserable Claire is and even when they are together, he is distracted by his crushing workload. His motives for accepting the new job are well-intentioned, but that does nothing to alleviate Claire’s growing resentment for his neglect.
Claire is, quite frankly, a mess. It is obvious that she is depressed and she probably has been for quite some time. As the story progress and she reflects on memories from her childhood, it becomes clear that she has never gotten over her dysfunctional past. Of course Dean played a vital role during this tumultuous time and while reconnecting with him brings up painful memories, she also recalls the passion and strong emotions associated with young love. As her dissatisfaction with her life grows, Claire is quite flattered by Dean’s attention which makes her very easy to manipulate.
What Burns Away is a well-written novel and Melissa Falcon Field takes the story in a very unanticipated and somewhat shocking direction. Claire’s past and present collide in an absolutely stunning plot twist and the story races to a dramatic conclusion that is a little unsatisfying but incredibly realistic.